Intelligent SME Magazine in its special issue of Enterprise Travel, chats with Mr. Navin Chandiramani, Executive Director, Expert Travel, who shares his insights on travel industry in UAE and benefits of business travel to the SME Division.
Q: How long you have been into the business of travel and what is Expert Travel all about?
A: I have been in Tourism for the last 10 years, having launched a very successful attraction map in Jamaica. I expanded further into Travel when I arrived in Dubai 4 years ago. This is how long Expert Travel has been operating here in the UAE.
Q: What are the services you offer to the SME Division?
A: Expert Travel is focused 100% on the Corporate Sector with SME’s making up the largest portion of our business at just over 40%. We offer the SME division leading-edge travel services in ticketing worldwide, hotel bookings globally, visa processing for the UAE and abroad, trade show support services, conferences and group excursions. In order to help this sector to flourish we offer 30 to 60 day credit accounts,
24-hour service and a never-say-never attitude.
Q: Share with us all your travel packages tailored specially for an Enterprise or Corporate Travel
A: Typical travel packages for the Corporate sector will include a business class flight, Schengen visa if required, travel insurance, private transfer, hotel booking usually upgraded at no additional fee, a three night-four day stay allowing for business and a bit of down time to relax and rejuvenate. Complimentary spa treatments are sometimes thrown in depending on the season.
Q: As you have direct partnership with Airlines like Air Arabia, Emirates and Etihad, what airways benefits have you designed for SMEs?
A: As mentioned we are very tightly aligned with the regions big carriers thus we make the most of mileage programs for our clients. We handle the frequent flier programs directly for a lot of our clients getting them upgrades and points flights wherever possible. We also manage our clients’ itineraries helping them to save as much as possible with date changes, re-validations and re-issuing of tickets which happens frequently in the corporate sector as business can be unpredictable. Finally we have the ability to pick-up very economical last-minute seats on the regional carriers with our in-house technology.
Q: Does Expert travel has presence in Middle East or only in Dubai. How efficient are the travel consultants accessible to the corporate customers and clients?
A: As of now our only physical middle east presence is in Dubai, but we are reachable globally. Our consultants are on call round the clock and we operate a very strict 10-minute response policy. Apart from the clients having the personal contact details for their assigned consultant we also offer a centralised enquiry system so that there is always an agent to respond to your query in case your assigned agent is busy. Our consultants are trained to handle most issues and if they have doubts our highly experienced General Manager, Zia Malik, is always available to support them.
Q: What are the benefits or rewards provided to the SMEs clients? Do you have yearly contract with them and how does it works out for both the parties?
A: We offer Corporate Accounts for our SME clients, once they apply and are approved by our credit department we assign them 30 to 60 day credit accounts depending on their needs. They avail of the best rates we can provide, they can book around the clock hassle free and can choose to receive invoices immediately or on a monthly basis. The main benefit is that they
have an agent on call any time
of the day.
Q: Share your views about how can you make the business travel easier for SMEs sector. What facilities should the package include to make the journey comfortable and ongoing in the future?
A: We believe heavily in technology. We are currently working on an interface for our clients with KPTAC, our IT partners, whereby they can be in touch with us 24/7. Thus if they need to make changes to their itineraries by logging in they will be able to access all the routes available to them should they need to make a change. They will even be able to effect those changes themselves.
As for additional facilities I am a strong believer in Travel Insurance to ensure a smooth and comfortable journey. We have partnered with Zurich, a global leader, to bring broad and economical plans to the SME sector.
Q: How frequently do you get travel bookings from SMEs? Is this sector contributing to the growth of the travel industry?
A: If you listen to any great business leader they will tell you SMEs is where the business is at. They represent the largest sector of businesses combined and provide the biggest opportunity for growth. We receive enquiries from some of our SME clients on a daily basis, some on a weekly basis and others monthly depending on their needs, we welcome everyone. This sector is contributing massively to the growth of the travel industry especially to the survival and birth of low-cost and budget airlines.
Q: Which are other deals you have other than business travel? Which hotels do you have tie ups with?
A: You can say we are the masters of the “Staycation” – this is taking a vacation not too far from your place of residence. We have very close ties with the Waldorf Astoria in RAK, the Miramar al Aqah Beach resort in Fujairah, the St. Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi and Anantara the Palm here in Dubai. We are also directly tied up with many more hotels here in the UAE. We advise a 2 night / 3 day staycation starting on a Thursday evening and finishing on Saturday. We have heard that people’s productivity gets a big boost
Q: What do you think about the travel industry in UAE?
A: The travel industry in the UAE is definitely ground breaking, this is why we chose to open our head-office here. Apart from being a travel hub with many industry-leading airlines offering connectivity to over 200 countries, the UAE in itself is a massive destination. It is great to be positioned in an economy which focuses both on in-bound and out-bound travel. Right now we have our sights firmly set on the Trade Show Industry for which we are the Official Travel Partners to over
Q: What are special packages and services you offer during Ramadan?
A: We have everything from the fun-loving to the religious retreat, send an e-mail to [email protected] right now with your preferences so we can surprise you.